Bielema eyes foundation in first class at Arkansas
FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. (AP) — Bret Bielema estimates he has slept in Fayetteville only 15 nights since being hired at Arkansas two months ago.
The former Wisconsin coach has spent the majority of his time on the road, looking to put the finishing touches on his first recruiting class with the Razorbacks. It's a journey that's taken Bielema and his staff across the country in search of talent.
Bielema's whirlwind recruiting efforts will come to a close Wednesday when Arkansas joins the rest of college football in welcoming its next wave of players on national signing day.
"It's going to be the foundation," Bielema told the Associated Press. "It's very important for me to start with a foundation of what I believe in, academically, athletically and socially."
That foundation starts within the borders of Arkansas for Bielema, who was hired in the wake of a disastrous season for the Razorbacks following the sudden firing of coach Bobby Petrino last spring.
The team that opened with a top-10 ranking finished with a 4-8 record under interim coach John L. Smith, whose staff did its best to recruit throughout the tumultuous season and coaching uncertainty. The head start was a welcome piece of news for Bielema, who has enjoyed his first taste of just how rugged competition can be in the Southeastern Conference.
It's also shown Bielema, who was 68-24 in seven seasons with the Badgers, the SEC's prominence after winning seven straight national championships.
"I think what jumped out to me right away was the desire for kids to play in the SEC," Bielema said. "Coast to coast, north, south, east, west there is a national interest in playing in the SEC. That is very evident and kind of overwhelmed me.
"Seven straight championships from the SEC, that's unqualified."
Arkansas already had its share of verbal commitments from high school recruits when Bielema was hired, including a handful of players within the state. They included a trio of standouts from nearby Fayetteville High School, which recently won its second straight state championship in the state's largest classification.
Quarterback Austin Allen, linebacker Brooks Ellis and safety Alex Brignoni each committed to the Razorbacks last spring. They did so following Petrino's firing, knowing there was no guarantee they'd like who the school hired as its long-term head coach.
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